New ideas from the Silicon valley: Transhumanism and Accelerationism

The Silicon Valley is well known for its innovative technology. But the Silicon Valley is also breeding new utopian concepts of society and mankind. The two dominant concepts from the Sillicon Valley are transhumanism and acceralationism.

Transhumanism refers to the latest and future developments and innovations in genetical, neurobiological , robotic and computer research. The transhumanists want to create a new mankind which optimizes genes, connects the computer networks with the human brain, creates avatars, implant robotic elements into the human body and brain. Chief ideologue of transhumanism is Ray Kurzweil , an American author, computer scientist, inventor and futurist. Aside from futurology, he is involved in fields such as optical character recognition (OCR),text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments. He has written books on health,artificial intelligence (AI),transhumanism, the technological singularity and futurism. Kurzweil is a public advocate for the futurist and transhumanist movements, and gives public talks to share his optimistic outlook on life extension technologies and the future of nanotechnology, robotics, and biotechnology.

Kurzweil desribes his own vision of transhumanism as follows:

„Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity — technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.(…)My view is that the likely outcome is that on the one hand, from the perspective of biological humanity, these superhuman intelligences will appear to be their transcendent servants, satisfying their needs and desires. On the other hand, fulfilling the wishes of a revered biological legacy will occupy only a trivial portion of the intellectual power that the Singularity will bring.“

This sounds a little bit as German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche` s idea of the „Übermensch“, a superior mankind which was abused by German Nazis as the idea of a superior race and has its equivalent in the US popculture in the „X-Men“–a comic of the Marvel Comic Group which is about mutants as a superior race and which became Hollywood blockbusters.The idea of the „Übermensch“ has found its equivalent in the US American superheroe comic pop culture and its believe in superhuman beings which is unique worldwide. No wonder that the nerds in „The Big Bang Theory“ are fans of superheroe comics. Sheldon Copper as some sort of transhumanist and accelerationist.The Silicon Valley is not only breeding new technologies, but also new ideologies which want to change mankind fundamentally. Much of this is just more science fiction and utopian, however the new ideas of a transhumanist, superior mankind has a lot of recipents as Ray Kurzweil´s book became a bestseller. There is a human desire to transcend its own being and to become a eternal transhuman superbeing with the most advanced science and technology.

The second new movement in the Silicon Vallley are the accelerationists. According to the“Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics” (MAP) by Alex Williams and Nick Sricnek., „accel­er­a­tion­ism pushes towards a future that is more mod­ern, an altern­at­ive mod­ern­ity that neo­lib­er­al­ism is inher­ently unable to gen­er­ate. “

Accelerationsim is a critique of Western neoliberalism, postmodernism, is promoting the acceleration of scientific progress which was constrained and limited by capitalism , is critizing the Left and the Right and propagates a post-capitalist society. While many sections of the manifesto are polemic and vague, the manifesto becomes concrete when it describes its own vision of a society:It refers to the Cybersyn project of the Chilenean Allende goverment which hired a team of cybernetics who set up the first central computer network before the USA even had the internet. The Allende goverment nationalized the 400 biggest companies in Chile and integrated them into a nationwide computernetwork called Cybersyn. This was the first time that a whole economy got directed by a central computer network. The accerationlists see this as a model for a postcapitalist society in which a national or even international economy could be regulated. The accelerationist don´t want a Sovjetstyle planed economy but „a marriage between the plan and the network, between horizontial and vertical hierarchies“- in their own words:

„8. We believe that any post-capitalism will require post-capitalist planning. The faith placed in the idea that, after a revolution, the people will spontaneously constitute a novel socioeconomic system that isn’t simply a return to capitalism is naïve at best, and ignorant at worst. To further this, we must develop both a cognitive map of the existing system and a speculative image of the future economic system.

9. To do so, the left must take advantage of every technological and scientific advance made possible by capitalist society. We declare that quantification is not an evil to be eliminated, but a tool to be used in the most effective manner possible. Economic modelling is — simply put — a necessity for making intelligible a complex world. The 2008 financial crisis reveals the risks of blindly accepting mathematical models on faith, yet this is a problem of illegitimate authority not of mathematics itself. The tools to be found in social network analysis, agent-based modelling, big data analytics, and non-equilibrium economic models, are necessary cognitive mediators for understanding complex systems like the modern economy. The accelerationist left must become literate in these technical fields.

10. Any transformation of society must involve economic and social experimentation. The Chilean Project Cybersyn is emblematic of this experimental attitude — fusing advanced cybernetic technologies, with sophisticated economic modelling, and a democratic platform instantiated in the technological infrastructure itself. Similar experiments were conducted in 1950s–1960s Soviet economics as well, employing cybernetics and linear programming in an attempt to overcome the new problems faced by the first communist economy. That both of these were ultimately unsuccessful can be traced to the political and technological constraints these early cyberneticians operated under.“

The fundamental question is: Can a computer regulated network replace or simulate a market economy and the invisible hand of Adam Smith. Was central planning economy failing because of the lack of supercomputer networks, just-.in-time-information- and production, big data and skilled nerds? As China enters the era of digitalization, it will be interesting to see, if China´s economic system which is partly state-regulated, partly free market will be similar as the society the accelerationist hope. Maybe the stateregulation will adopt the Cybersyn idea and maybe there will be a Chinese accelerationism with Chinese characteristics. However the accelerationist speak of technological and political constraints. Therefore it is doubtful, if they see an authotarian regime as China as wishful political enviroment for their project. But on the other side the accelerationsts are also not friends of democratic fetishes or as they write in their manifesto:

„13. The overwhelming privileging of democracy-as-process needs to be left behind. The fetishisation of openness, horizontality, and inclusion of much of today’s ‘radical’ left set the stage for ineffectiveness. Secrecy, verticality, and exclusion all have their place as well in effective political action (though not, of course, an exclusive one).

14. Democracy cannot be defined simply by its means — not via voting, discussion, or general assemblies. Real democracy must be defined by its goal — collective self-mastery. This is a project which must align politics with the legacy of the Enlightenment, to the extent that it is only through harnessing our ability to understand ourselves and our world better (our social, technical, economic, psychological world) that we can come to rule ourselves. We need to posit a collectively controlled legitimate vertical authority in addition to distributed horizontal forms of sociality, to avoid becoming the slaves of either a tyrannical totalitarian centralism or a capricious emergent order beyond our control. The command of The Plan must be married to the improvised order of The Network.“

The question what political system the accelerationsts want remains to be seen. If it was the rule of the technocrats and a scientific elite ,that model could even fit to authotarian regimes.

Über Ralf Ostner

Ralf Ostner geboren 1964 in Frankfurt am Main, 1984 Abitur in Bayern--Leitungskurse: Physik und Kunst/ Schülerzeitung. Studium der Physik (Nebenfächer: Mathematik, Chemie), Wirtschaftsgeographie (Nebenfächer: BWL, VWL) und Studium der Sinologie. 1991 Abschluss als staatlich geprüfter Übersetzer in der englischen und chinesischen Sprache am Sprachen- und Dolmetscher-Institut/München (Leiter der Chinesisch-Abteilung: Herr Zhang, ehemaliger Dolmetscher von Deng Xiaoping und Franz-Josef Strauß).Danach 5 Jahre Asienaufenthalt: China, Indien, Südostasien (u.a. in Kambodscha während des ersten Auslandseinsatzes der Bundeswehr, Interviews mit Auslandschinesen, Recherche im Karen-Guerillagebiet in Burma, Unterstützung einer UNO-Mitarbeiterin während den Aufständen in Nepal und bei UNO-Arbeit in Indien), Australien. Danach 5 Jahre als Dolmetscher, Delegationsbegleiter und Übersetzer in München. Abendstudium an der Hochschule für Politik /München (Schwerpunkt: Internationale Beziehungen). Abschluss als Diplom-Politologe (Diplomarbeit: Die deutsch-chinesischen Beziehungen 1989-2000 unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der SPD-Grünen-Regierung). Delegationsbegleitung von Hu Ping, Chefredakteur der chinesischen Dissidentenzeitung "Pekinger Frühling" (New York)und prominentester Vertreter eines chinesischen Liberalismus bei seiner Deutschlandtour (Uni München, Uni Mainz, Berlin/FU-Humboldt) bei gleichzeitigem Kontakt mit Liu Liqun (Autor des Buches "Westliches Denken transzendieren"/ heute: Deutschlandberater der chinesischen Regierung).Chefredakteur der Studentenzeitschrift UNIPOL . Projekte am Goethe-Institut und bei FOCUS TV. Seit 2000 Übersetzer (chinesisch-deutsch), Graphiker, freier Schriftsteller und Blogger.
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